Thursday, September 5, 2013

Graves on the Poet's freedom and responsibilities.


In the first of his Clark lectures given in 1954, (Collected Writings on Poetry 134ff) Robert Graves discussed the freedom of the poet from institutional verification or professional associations as ‘The Crowning Privilege’.

Unlike stockbrokers, soldiers, sailors, doctors, lawyers, parsons, English poets do not form a closely integrated guild. A poet may set up his brass plate, so to speak, without the tedious preliminaries of attending a university, reading the required books and satisfying examiners. A poet, also, being responsible to no General Council, and acknowledging no personal superior, can never be unfrocked, cashiered, disbarred, struck of the register, hammered on ’Change, or flogged round the fleet, if he is judged guilty of unpoetic conduct. The only limits legally set on his activities are the acts relating to libel, pornography, treason and the endangerment of public order. And if he earns the scorn of his colleagues, what effective sanctions can they take against him? None at all. 

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